Bernard J Rabik
A person can think, and act, and feel without being able to adequately share those thoughts, actions, and feelings. Good fiction is the catalyst assisting us to effectively share those thoughts, actions, and feelings. For, as such, it mirrors life. My recent read of the New York Times bestseller “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas is good fiction. For it is poignant proof that good fiction mirrors life.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor Black neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, Khalil’s death becomes a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests that he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear that the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protestors take to the streets; and, Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is:
What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does, or does not say, could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life from her.
Though author Thomas’ story is heartbreakingly topical, its greatest strength is in its authentic depiction of a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about lives with the way those lives are depicted, and completely undervalued , by society at large.
“The Hate U Give” is an important and timely novel that mirrors the world today’s teens inhabit. Starr’s struggles create a complex character, and Thomas boldly tackles topics like racism, gangs, police violence and interracial dating.
Ultimately, the book emphasizes the need to speak up about injustice. That is a message which will resonate with all young people concerned with fairness, and Starr’s experience will speak to readers who know Starr’s life like their own and provide perspective for others.
It is the tasting of this novel’s words that it is fiction reflecting reality:
“I can’t get the guts to tell Daddy though. And it’s not just because he doesn’t want me dating yet. The bigger issue is that Chris is white.”
“A sixteen-year-old boy is dead because a white cop killed him. What else could it be?
“Good-byes hurt the most when the other person’s already gone.”
“Just before the start of the funeral service, I was informed that, despite a credible eyewitness account, the police department has no intentions of arresting the officer who murdered the young man.”
Nobody understands! I saw the bullets rip through him. I sat there in the street as he took his last breath. I’ve had to listen to people try to make it seem like it’s okay he was murdered. As if I have served it. But he didn’t deserve to die, and I didn’t do anything to see that shit!”
Thomas ends her novel: “Khalil, I’ll never forget. I’ll never give up. I’ll never be quiet. Lo prometo.”
For sure, there can be light in the darkness.
Bernard Rabik, a Hopewell Township attorney, is an opinion columnist for The Times.